Sean O'Brien: 'We must start believing in ourselves'
SEAN O'BRIEN has called on his Ireland colleagues to learn from their devastating defeat to New Zealand and take the same level of performance into next year's Six Nations.
The Leinster flanker believes that Sunday's display should represent a benchmark for the team when they re-assemble in camp before Christmas in preparation for the championship kick-off against Scotland in February.
Ireland's players go back to their provinces this week and begin preparations for next month's back-to-back Heineken Cup clashes and will be fully focused on their club campaigns.
But the frustration of coming up short against the All Blacks will linger, according to O'Brien, who believes that the national team must recapture the intensity they showed on Sunday to kick on.
"It's a team game and we, as a group, need to know how to close out a game like that. We had the ball at 79.30 and in 30 seconds, we lost the game," he said.
"There was a little bit of talk afterwards, on days like Sunday you have to look for some good in it. Our intensity and effort can't go unnoticed, it was pleasing that we were able to play to such a level. It's about believing in ourselves, moving on and trying to take a step forward, having a bit of confidence in the way we play and what we're about. There was a lot of pride in the jersey, emotion, and Irish teams when we bring that are incredibly dangerous. We need to bring that every day and we won't be far away from trophies."
As he picked through the debris of Sunday's defeat, Joe Schmidt conceded that extending the depth of players available to him was of paramount importance as he continues to work towards the 2015 World Cup and said he felt he'd need a full season in the job before the changes he is implementing take full effect.
"I think one of the things that New Zealand have achieved this year is winning 14 consecutive Tests with almost 40 different players used. I think we have a smaller player pool in Ireland, smaller than New Zealand, and we have to maximise that player pool," he said.
"It's one of the reasons we made changes over the last three weeks and I still think it will be 12 months maybe in trying to build a wider group of players capable of competing at the level that the game was played at on Sunday.
"I thought the intensity was exceptional, a lot of the Irish players said it was the fastest game they've played in this year and certainly some of the All Black players I know reasonably well felt the same.
"If we play at that intensity, we have got to have players who can exist in that white-hot intensity."